In Loving Memory

  • Remembering my beloved child, Austin, who passed away at the early age of 14. He lived more in those 14 short years than most and is an inspiration to us all.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Never Knowing

Austin was a gift to all who knew him. Whether you'd known him all your life or you just met, he left an impression on you. I have had strangers come up to me, telling me what a wonderful child he was. I read letters from kids at his school, some who only knew him in passing, who had a story to share. He certainly put a footprint on my heart that will never leave, as he did for many in our family. What hurts is the next generation who will never get to know what a treasure he was.

We celebrated my nephew's first birthday yesterday. There were so many bittersweet moments. I see a lot of Austin in little Allen and watching him tear into his birthday cake brought back so many memories. I remember Austin's first birthday like it was yesterday. I was also constantly aware of the absence of Austin. He loved Allen from the moment he held him in the hospital. I know a part of him is always around us but I wished so much for him to be with us yesterday, celebrating this milestone.

Austin was upset with me when my sister Raven had both of her babies, because I didn't let him skip school and stay there all night waiting for her to deliver. It always amazed me how much he enjoyed children, especially babies. You would think a teenage boy would care less but he could've held babies all day. He just had an instant connection with them. In fact, it is one of my last memories of Austin, holding both Bryanna and Allen that Thanksgiving weekend he passed. He couldn't decide which one to hold more and his phone was filled with pictures of them.
Austin used to be the only one Bryanna would go to in a crowd of our family. Her face would light up when he entered the room. Sadly, Allen didn't have a chance to get close to him, as Austin was gone just a little over a month after he was born. Both of them were so young when he passed that I wonder what memory, if any, they'll have of him. He loved them both so much, as he did all of his cousins. It just hurts that they won't be able to grow up knowing him.

Our family tree was cut short, mid-bloom, and it forever changed our future generations. So many will never truly know how wonderful he was.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

missing him

I am not usually at a loss for words when it comes to writing. Thoughts normally just pour out of me, relieved to leave my mind and land on paper.

When I started this blog for Austin, it was mostly for me. It has been therapeutic to be able to write about him, to capture those moments and feelings that I so often keep inside. As time progressed though, I noticed more and more people were reading. I've received so many kind comments from those who come here and that gives me inspiration to continue. As well, I imagine there are others who happen upon it accidentally but linger and my hope is that they leave knowing a little about my son and how wonderful he was. This is all I have of him now and continuing to write keeps his memory alive.

I've had a need to write for several days but for some reason, I am just blocked. The panic of the approaching anniversary lingers within me. There is still so much yet to say but sometimes there are just no words. So, today there isn't so much a story or a single memory to share but just me trying to capture his essence and of what I am missing most these days.

When I think of Austin, which is as often as the beating of my heart, I picture first his smile. I see him with that big smile that just swept you up in happiness. His eyes would sparkle and followed shortly by the smile would be a big, hearty laugh. Austin had a laugh like no other. It was contagious. It made you laugh along, it carried you into that moment. You felt, instantly, his sincere love of life. He never held back in his laughter, never guarded it depending on the situation. If it amused him, he let it show. I loved him for that confidence. My ears still search for it, pausing, as silence echos and so often fills the space now.

I miss so many things about him. Even silly, funny things. So many things bring memories of him to me. Making hot chocolate last night, I stopped, remembering how he'd drink it with a straw or eat soup with a fork. Those were things unique to him and a simple bowl of soup or mug of cocoa brings that back now. I miss picking on him about things like that - and I miss him picking on me. Austin made us smile every day.

I even miss his temper! He was so much like his father that the two would often butt heads and I'd be the mediator. Neither of them would ever stay mad long though, they were too close. But I miss him coming home, venting about something. I miss him stomping off, if he didn't get his way. I miss hearing his door slam.

I think I miss his soul the most though. I just miss that connection, the energy, the warmth and kindness that surrounded him. I miss the connection that we shared. How I didn't have to say a word but he just knew I needed a hug. I vividly remember our last big hug. It was in the living room and he stopped me on my way to the kitchen. Most of the time he gave me one arm hugs (still great) but sometimes they were just in passing. This was a full, two arm, embrace that filled my soul. I remember it so well it brings tears to my eyes. I miss him so much.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

autumn memories

Fall used to be my favorite time of year. I guess it still is but each occasion is a sad reminder of Austin not being here to enjoy the moment.

There are so many memories with him tied to this time of year...

I remember his first Halloween. He was only three months old and too little to go out. Instead I dressed him in a cute Mickey Mouse one-piece and we greeted the Trick-or-Treaters as they came to our door. We had many guests that year because everyone wanted to see "Smiley" in costume. He was a cutie.

When he was too young to enjoy decorating pumpkins, I would do elaborate carvings. He didn't know what he was looking at, but Austin enjoyed sitting outside and watching the flickering glow of the candle shine through the pumpkin scenes.

The next year, we started the tradition of attending the annual apple festival. Austin's favorites were grilled corn on the cob and the big swing ride. I have such a sweet picture of him gnawing on a corn cob and even though I'm not sure which album it is in, the details are vivid in my mind. He would ride the swing ride over and over, so many times that I feared he would get sick, especially when his belly was full of corn, cotton candy, and caramel!

As he grew older, I enjoyed going on field trips with him and his preschool groups. He loved picking out his own pumpkins, running through the corn maze, and taking hayrides. And I loved coming up with cute costumes for school fall festivals and Halloween.

I don't remember every costume but I do remember him winning first prize for Dracula. We did this costume when he was five. His hair was already jet black so we just slicked it back and added a widow's peak. He didn't enjoy sitting still while I painted his face white, but it was all made better once we got to add fangs and blood.

We also did a "Chucky" costume once for a haunted house the fire department ran one year. I created the costume and did the face painting, which lasted a couple of hours. That wasn't great fun for him; however, in the end, nobody recognized him. Austin had a fun time that year scaring people as they walked by. He opted not to continue the costume for Halloween though, as it meant sitting through another make-up session that year!

Once he was old enough to handle a knife, he enjoyed carving pumpkins too. We had many great family nights, gathered at the kitchen table, floors covered in newspaper to catch the mess. Unlike his younger brother, Austin enjoyed sticking his hands inside the goopy pumpkin and pulling out the guts. (Actually, Austin would get a kick out of the fact that it made Noah sick each year and would taunt him with the insides!) In the end, he would have a masterpiece though. I have timeline pictures of Austin and his pumpkin every year.

The past several years another tradition was attending our church's Hallowed Fun Night. Both boys always enjoyed the booths of fun and our favorite stop was the big bonfire, where we'd roast hot dogs and make s'mores. As much as they'd run around with their friends that night, it was the one activity we gathered as a family for.

Austin was getting older though and traditions were changing. He didn't go Trick-or-Treating last year with us for the first time. The past couple years he hasn't dressed up but he would walk his brother door-to-door. Since my accident, my knee didn't allow me to trek the hills, so I followed them in the truck. He was always so patient with Noah, always watching out for his safety on the roads and skipping any homes that didn't look right to him.

Last year, he asked if he could skip it and stay at the station instead. I knew the day would come, and I appreciated that he asked politely before doing so, making sure I would be ok. Of course I said he could, and that we'd be fine, but it wasn't the same.

I remember seeing him smiling and laughing though when we made our way back to the station that night. He had such a good time being with his buddies and passing out candy. The rest of his night was spent telling jokes and playing corn hole with the crew. He'd traded in his plastic firefighter costume for a real one. My little guy had grown up.

I imagine he'll will be at the station again this Halloween, at least in spirit, watching over all the kids - especially Noah, and shaking his head on missed shots at corn hole.

Friday, October 2, 2009

trash to treasure

Austin found a love for yard sales from my mom, or as he called her "Mamaw B". He would come home excited to share his collection of deals from the day's stops. Honestly, the majority of it was junk but as the saying goes.....and he treasure it he did!

Some of his favorite finds were a bowling ball and bag (which he never used), an ice cream factory (still in the box), and a used gumball/vending machine. We didn't have a key to make the vending machine work so instead we filled it with baseball items - one compartment with balls, one with baseball cards, etc. It was a neat collectible for his room.

I think this weekend is the big Hwy 60 yard sale and that brought back memories from last fall. We surprised Austin last year by getting up early on that Saturday and making the drive. At first, he was impressed there were so many yard sales in a row. He thought the neighbors just got together and decided to share the date. When I explained it went for miles and miles, he was ecstactic. Each stop, he was like a kid in a candy store, ready to explore and find great deals. I don't even remember what we bought that day but I do remember what a good time he had.

We ended up heading on into Evansville afterwards and happened upon the large flea market there. This stop was the icing on the cake for him. Rows and rows of miscellaneous items for sale that could have held his attention for hours. Once he found the baseball card booth though, he was fixed and spent every last dollar he had there, including borrowing some from Mom. (As if he needed anymore cards.) He was thrilled though and called his great Aunt Becky on the way home to discuss his finds and figure out if there were any of great value. The next week he checked out a book from the library to help him calculate their worth. Just a simple box of cards to me but hours of entertainment for him.

It is strange how everyday things like a yard sale can bring back so many memories. Even though they often begin with tears, there are special moments to think back on and smile about too.
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